How creative economy supports women in Guinea Bissau

Ivone Gomes provides alternatives to imported products while empowering other women

Ivone Gomes, seated amongst some of the items created in her studio. Photo: Ivone studio

A few years ago, Ivone Gomes received training on creative economy where she learnt how to sew. The training course ignited her creative abilities and gave her an outlet to express herself through her creations. She eventually ventured into a sewing career that has helped to improve the lives of many women in her native country of Guinea Bissau, one of the smallest countries in West Africa.

In the Ivone Studio located in the São Paulo neighborhood of Bissau, 30 young women are employed in a wide range of operations ranging from sewing, dyeing to traditional weaving (locally referred to as Pano de Pinti).

“It all happened thanks to the training course I received, said Ivone. “The course allowed me to gain interest in sewing and thanks to several researches done on the internet I had the brilliant idea of ​​opening a studio involving other women in this project.”

The United Nations fosters 2021 as the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. With coronavirus restrictions threatening to erode gains made towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has helped sustain the creative economy, whose value is not often well captured in the global economy.

Na No Mon, which translates from Creole “in your hands”, is a newly launched community support platform powered by the United Nations Development Programme in Guinea-Bissau. The platform, which among other things offers a space to document and promote examples of inspiring, replicable solutions across a range of sustainable development topics in response to COVID-19 and for a longer-term development, reached out to Ivone in her Studio.

Seated among different hand-crafted items such as bags, fabric computer holders, backpacks, dresses, pouches, men’s shirts, etc., all of which respond to the national market by offering alternatives to imported products, Ivone explained to the Na No Mon Project coordinator, Laila Soares, her current projects and future aspirations.

“It was by knocking on people’s doors that I managed to convince several women to participate in this initiative,” she noted.

“Today, thanks to the income generated by the work produced by this group of women, many families are able to have a source of income,” she concluded.

The participation of youth and women in formal economic activities in Guinea Bissau is very low considering that youth, mainly young women, represent 72% of the unemployed population in the country. In addition to the lack of economic opportunities, social and cultural norms tend to limit their participation in the informal sector, thus exacerbating inequality and depriving the country of the productivity of more than half of its population.

In the meantime, the Ivone Studio has diversified and formed a cooperative with like-minded individuals. The cooperative trains young women on various aspects of the creative economy.

Ivonne and other young women working on handcrafted items. Photo: Ivone studio

After the training, some of these young women opened their own businesses — so far, at least two young women have their own productions. Those who opt to work for the cooperative are entitled to 10% of the total products produced by them. According to Ivone, a person can, in one week, produce between 10 to 15 bags, which allows them to have some income of their own. Also, the cooperative has expanded to include fruit processing as a side project, an activity that is done upon request.

Deep down, it is with great satisfaction that this aspiring young woman sees the positive results of everything she has built. Ivone is living her dream. “Finding solutions that make it possible to improve the community’s economic situation with strong potential to move along the national economy.”

Through the Na No Mon initiative, new and different partnerships will be established with community leaders representing marginalized and isolated local populations, such as rural workers, people with disabilities, illiterate youth and women.

For more information on Na No Mon, please visit our website on

Photo: Ivone studio



Advancing sustainable human development in 46 Sub-Saharan African countries.

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UNDP Africa

Advancing sustainable human development in 46 Sub-Saharan African countries.